For the record, we didn’t need the Emmys to validate Michaela Coel’s genius. Nevertheless, after a Golden Globes snub and a rather rote evening of all-white acting wins, it was wonderful to see Coel’s genius duly celebrated with a historic win for Writing for a Limited Series (for the equally genius I May Destroy You on HBO).
While we think IMDY deserved awl the awards, its writer-producer-star was radiating brilliance as soon as she hit the Emmys red carpet Sunday night wearing a cropped bustier and column skirt in highlighter-yellow cotton twill overlaid with silk organza, replete with a six-foot back bow as train and matching Le Silla stilettos. There was Black brilliance behind Coel’s look, too; the ensemble was by custom-created by CFDA-winning designer and TGU 50 honoree Christopher John Rogers—who calls the shade “Sulphur”—and styled by fellow TGU 50 honoree and newly minted Emmy winner Zerina Akers.
Another bright spot? Yara Shahidi, who took her role as Dior’s newest ambassador to the next level in emerald green—or perhaps, “Tinker Bell green,” in a nod to her next acting role. Her “New Look” silhouette featured an asymmetrical shoulder-baring bodice which artfully framed a jeweled collar from another of Shahidi’s brand partners, Cartier. The look was completed with a sleek updo by celerity hairstylist and 2020 TGU 50 honoree Lacy Redway, who explained the inspiration behind the coif—styled entirely using Nexxus products—to The Glow Up via a statement.
“I felt really inspired by the silhouette of her dress—that sort of tea length from Dior—so I really wanted to do an updated take on the classic look,” said Redway. “Yara’s young, so we wanted to keep it modern but sophisticated, which is what led me to keeping the front classic and timeless and creating the modern-shaped bun in the back.”
Uzo Aduba delighted us last week with a stunning announcement in bridal white, but for the Emmys, she stunned while wearing what would prove to be one of the evening’s hottest colors, a shocking pink halter-necked gown by Cristina Ottaviano. History-making 2021 Oscar winner Jamika Wilson created the nominated actress’ waved bob for the evening, which also saw Aduba’s red carpet debut with husband Robert Sweeting.
Michaela Jaé—formerly known as Mj—Rodriguez made history at the 73rd annual Emmys as the first transgender actress nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for her work in Pose. But she also understood the evening’s unspoken assignment when it came to color, donning a strapless turquoise Versace for the occasion. To top off the ocean-hued look, hairstylist Tym Wallace (who also created Taraji P. Henson’s topknot) gave Rodriguez mermaid-inspired waves using extensions from fellow hairstylist Kim Kimble’s hair extension line (also used by Kimble herself to create Kerry Washington’s lengthy wrapped ponytail).
While she didn’t wear a vibrant hue, Jurnee Smollett wore another of the night’s major trends, as her ivory Dior gown’s tiered and raw hems created a fringe-like effect. Whether articulated through ruffles, tulle, or feathers, exaggerated edging was a recurring theme on last night’s red carpet, as seen framing the bodices of actresses Robin Thede, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Nicolette Robinson, as well as on Cynthia Erivo’s train of fluffy fringed stripes by Louis Vuitton.
But what made Smollett’s look extra special was a tiny detail that likely went unnoticed by most. As shown off online by celebrity hairstylist Nikki Nelms, Smollett’s upswept French twist was adorned with a hairpin bearing the initials “MKW,” a tribute to her recently departed friend and Lovecraft Country co-star Michael K. Williams (who won a well-deserved Emmy in our hearts, if not at last night’s ceremony).
Along with the “fringe benefits,” there were even more technicolor moments on last night’s carpet. From Ava (who skipped the step-and-repeat but gave us a cobalt moment designed by Carly Cushnie), to Tracee (in Maison Valentino red), to host Cedric the Entertainer (who contributing entertainment writer Shanelle Genai likened to “a fly Easter Egg”), the entertainers present on television’s biggest night donned a spectrum of equally entertaining hues. (Which were, in turn, offset by plenty of classic Hollywood sparkle, shine and swag—we see you, Issa, Taraji, Lena, Sterling and Ryan Michelle!)
Perhaps it was a not-so-subtle reminder that even when it feels like #EmmysSoWhite, it’s the color that keeps us tuned in. You can view all the #BlackExcellence in our slideshow below.